Category: Preservation

Guilford Apartments on E. North Avenue up for auction on January 28

An early 20th century apartment building at 231-233 E. North Avenue is up for auction on January 28—presenting an important opportunity for continued investment in the historic Greenmount West neighborhood. In the past few years, public art from the Station North Arts and Entertainment District, developers fixing up landmarks like The Centre Theatre and the Chesapeake Restaurant, and the hard work of neighborhood residents with the New Greenmount West Community Association have combined into a unique example of how arts, culture and historic preservation can support community development.

231-233 E. North Avenue, 2015 November 15
231-233 E. North Avenue, 2015 November 15

Formerly known as the Guilford Apartments, 233 E. North Avenue dates back to 1902 when the Guilford Avenue Construction Company awarded a $23,000 construction contract to builder C.S.M. Williamson. In the 1900s and 1910s, developers erected small to mid-sized apartment buildings across central and north Baltimore including the nearby Preston Apartment House (1902) at Guilford Avenue and Preston Street and The Walbert (1907) on Charles Street. The 1880s rowhouse next door at 231 E. North Avenue remained a single-family home up through the 1910s but was converted into an office by 1953.

Twenty years ago, the owner of the building received approval to expand from 22 apartments to 40 for a senior housing project. The effort stalled with little progress and, in 2012, a new developer won support from the Board of Municipal and Zoning Appeals to turn the vacant building into nineteen apartments. According to the auctioneer, the owner then gutted the interior preparing to start construction but could not complete the project.

233 E. North Avenue from Guilford Avenue, 2015 November 15
233 E. North Avenue from Guilford Avenue, 2015 November 15

On Thursday, January 28, 2016 at 12:30 pm, 231-233 E. North Avenue is up for auction and we hope the building is rehabilitated and offers a welcome home for new neighbors in the Greenmount West community. The starting bid is for the property is $175,000 and property taxes are $4,465.12 (2015-2016). Thanks to the building’s location within the North Central National Register Historic District, a project at this building could be eligible for the Baltimore City Historic Tax Credit program—check out our tax credit guide for more information. Plans are also available:

Learn more about the 231-233 E. North Avenue from Ashland Auction. For questions or more information, contact auctioneer Adam Shpritz by phone at 410-365-3595 (cell) or 410-488-3124 (office) or by email at adam@ashlandauction.com. Pr-bid offers are accepted by phone at 410-488-3124 or by email to adam@ashlandauction.com.

Show up to support the preservation of 1232 Druid Hill Avenue

Built in 1868, the three-story brick rowhouse at 1232 Druid Hill Avenue is an important reminder of the city’s rapid growth after the Civil War and the African American history of the Upton neighborhood. Please come to the public CHAP hearing on Tuesday, January 12 to support listing 1232 Druid Hill Avenue as a local landmark and protect the building from demolition. If you are unable to attend, you can share your support for the nomination by email with Eric Holcomb, Executive Director, CHAP at eric.holcomb@baltimorecity.gov.

1232-1234 Druid Hill Avenue
1232-1234 Druid Hill Avenue

Continued threats to Civil Rights heritage in West Baltimore neighborhoods highlight the urgent need to preserve 1232 Druid Hill Avenue. In September 2015, Bethel A.M.E. Church received permits for limited interior demolition at 1232 Druid Hill Avenue (acquired by the church in 1981) and the neighboring 1234 Druid Hill Avenue. Regrettably, the work soon led to a roof collapse at 1234 Druid Hill Avenue and the church received a permit to demolish both buildings—despite the fact that 1232 Druid Hill Avenue remained structurally sound. As the contractor tore down the Freedom House in early November, they continued to gut 1232 Druid Hill Avenue with an clear plan to tear the building down shortly.

Fortunately, the Baltimore Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation (CHAP) stepped up and placed the building on their potential landmark list. The potential landmark list is a new tool for preservation in Baltimore created by the revised CHAP ordinance and replacing the controversial “special list” designation. As the Baltimore Brew reported in November, CHAP posted a notice at 1232 Druid Hill Avenue and scheduled a hearing for January 12 to hear testimony from the owner and members of the public and decide whether to add the building to CHAP’s landmark list.

Druid Hill Avenue, 1869. Courtesy Library of Congress
Druid Hill Avenue, 1869. Courtesy Library of Congress

1232 Druid Hill Avenue tells the story of Baltimore’s changing neighborhoods through the stories of the many families who have called this house home. We call this the King/Briscoe House to recognize two particularly important residents at 1232 Druid Hill Avenue: local printer George W. King (who lived there from 1883 to 1898) and African American wagon driver Abraham Briscoe (who lived there with his family from 1899 to 1908). You can learn more about the history of 1232 Druid Hill Avenue with our draft landmark designation report.

If you plan to testify to support the designation next week, we urge you to read our tips for effective public testimony. The hearing starts at 1:00pm. This is the third item on the agenda so the staff presentation is likely to begin around 1:30pm. To testify, you need to sign up at the front desk for the planning department located just outside the Planning Department hearing room. Please feel free to contact us with any questions or comments or send me an email at pousson@baltimoreheritage.org.

404 George Street in Seton Hill up for auction next Thursday – Update: House under contract, auction cancelled

Update –January 6, 2015: We just confirmed with Ashland Auction that 404 George Street is now under contract and the auction is cancelled. We plan to share additional information about the new owner and their plans for the building when we learn more. Thank you to everyone who helped spread the word!

Tucked away on a narrow street, 404 George Street has had our attention since concerned neighbors first contacted us in 2012 about this three-story rowhouse in Seton Hill. Next Thursday, January 7, the building is up for auction—offering a unique opportunity to buy a historic house just steps away from the famed Mother Seton House.

In July 2012, local residents pushed Baltimore Housing to file a receivership case against the owner who held the building since 1986. Receivership is a process where a municipality or a qualified non-profit applies for a court to appoint them as the receiver of the property and move to restore the property to use.

Courtesy MRIS, 2014.
Courtesy MRIS, 2014.

Unfortunately, years of neglect took a toll on the structure. At the first auction in October 2014, the 404 George Street received no bids from interested buyers. Thankfully, Baltimore Housing quickly responded and stabilized the building to make the property more attractive to prospective developers. Stabilizing distressed vacant houses is a key strategy for encouraging private reinvestment and is often more cost-effective than demolition.

On Thursday, January 7 at 1:00 pm, 404 George Street is up for auction again. If you are a local builder, developer or an enthusiastic home rehabber, we invite you to come out next Thursday and invest in this beautiful community. If you are a neighbor, we need you to help spread the word!

Built in the 19th century, 404 George Street is less than a block away from the Mother Seton House and St. Mary’s Seminary Chapel—an 1808 landmark designed by architect Maximilian Godefroy. St. Mary’s Park boasts a recently restored fountain and won recognition from Baltimore City Paper as the city’s best park in 2014. The 2012 master plan for Seton Hill has much more information on the neighborhood. Of course, the property is eligible for city and state historic tax credits—review our historic tax credit guide for more details.

Please help make 2016 the year that the vacant house at 404 George Street turns back into a home.

St. Mary's Park. Courtesy Live Baltimore.
St. Mary’s Park. Courtesy Live Baltimore.

Learn more about 404 George Street and the auction process from the Ashland Auction Group. For questions or more information, contact auctioneer Adam Shpritz by phone at 410-365-3595 (cell) or 410-488-3124 (office) or by email at adam@ashlandauction.com. Bids start at $30,000. Pre-bid offers are accepted by phone at 410-488-3124 or by email to adam@ashlandauction.com.

Department of Public Works releases final plan for Druid Hill Reservoir project

On Wednesday, the Baltimore Department of Public Works released their “100%” final plan for the Druid Hill Reservoir project. DPW is planning to install two drinking water tanks (one holding 35 million gallons and another 19 million) buried under the western third of Druid Lake. After construction, the land above the tanks would become part of the park including a new band shell. DPW plans to convert the remaining eastern part of the reservoir into a publicly accessible lake but Druid Lake would no longer be part of the city’s drinking water supply.

View of Druid Lake looking towards apartment houses in Reservoir Hill, 1930 April 24. Baltimore Museum of Industry, BG&E Collection, BGE.3375N
View of Druid Lake looking towards apartment houses in Reservoir Hill, 1930 April 24. Baltimore Museum of Industry, BG&E Collection, BGE.3375N

Changes to Druid Lake are required by new federal policies to improve drinking water safety and follow nearly three years of study and public meetings. With the release of this final plan, the Department of Public Works is moving forward with implementation and anticipates completing work in four to five years – 2019 or 2020.

Throughout the planning process, Baltimore Heritage worked with neighbors and the Friends of Druid Hill Park, to draw attention to issues around the treatment of the historic lake and the new configuration of Druid Hill Park. We now have answers to a few of these big questions.

What happens to the historic stone wall and iron fence around the lake?

Around the eastern area of the lake, the project plan keeps the stone wall and fence in place and repairs any deteriorated elements. Around the western area (located above the tanks), the plan keeps segments of the stone wall in place but removes all the existing ironwork. The goal of the latter changes is to make the lake accessible to the public and support new opportunities for recreational  boating, fishing, and other activities.

Now that the lake is no longer needed to supply drinking water, will it still be kept full of water?

The Department of Public Works has committed to keep Druid Lake filled with water by diverting groundwater into the reconstructed lake and, if necessary, supplementing that supply with drinking water.

How does this project pay for the necessary park improvements?

Funding for this project from the Department of Public Works should pay for widening the path on the southern part of the lake and constructing the base for the band shell. The Baltimore City Department of Recreation and Parks is expected to find funding for to complete the band shell and related park improvements. Funding for this additional work is not currently included in the capital budget for Recreation and Parks but we hope to see those resources identified before construction is complete.

Illustration of proposed improvements. Baltimore City Department of Public Works.
Illustration of proposed improvements. Baltimore City Department of Public Works.